Yunokabashi Bridge

Ashikita-cho, Kumamoto
Hiroyuki Hirai

Yunoura in Ashikita-cho, Kumamoto Prefecture, used to be a popular spa thriving with people who came from Amakusa by ship. Designed as a symbol of the spa’s revival, the Yunokabashi bridge was constructed to replace a wooden red taiko-type bridge that had spanned the river of old. In keeping with its function as a bridge for pedestrians only, the bridge was to make crossing the river a delightful experience for its users.
To realize this objective, I used a number of technical means in designing the bridge. First, I decided to provide the bridge with a terrace which would allow people to descend to the water surface to relish the immediate sensation of water. Then I employed semitransparent materials for the balustrade. With the sun rays reflected and refracted by the balustrade, the silhouettes of pedestrians crossing the bridge, I reckoned, would resemble those seen through shoji (paper sliding doors). Third, from the very beginning I included illumination effects in my planning, as I also wanted the bridge to be used for pleasurable strolls after nightfall. Lastly, I based my design on human, not civil-engineering scale, paying particular attention to the architecturally precise detailing of the handrail, an element directly touched by people’s hands. These four basic ideas guided me throughout designing the bridge.
Since the bridge was realized, local residents have expressed their enthusiastic approval, to a far greater degree than I had hoped for. This has made me realize – very late, I must admit – an obvious truth: that thinking about bridges also means thinking about people and cities.